Joining in with Sensory Differences

Everybody experiences the world around them in different ways. Sometimes how your brain understands information from your senses can make it difficult to join in with every day activities.

Click on the sections below for quick access to each area or scroll down the page to see all the content.

Sensory Development

The following KIDS video explores the 7 sensory systems, or pathways through which information is inputted to the brain:

  • Sense of Vision
  • Sense of Hearing
  • Sense of Touch
  • Sense of Smell and Taste
  • Sense of Body Awareness
  • Sense of Movement and Balance

The 7 systems do not work in isolation; each overlaps and hopefully integrates with the others, although each has a specific role in providing a person with their 'sense of self'.

Watch our video to find out more about the sensory systems and how differences can affect children and young people.


Sensory Questionnaires

We are all different and have different likes and dislikes. This includes having different sensory likes and dislikes (we also call these sensory preferences).

You will already know lots of things your child likes or dislikes. It is important to remember that we would only want to put strategies in place to support a child or young person if they are having difficulty participating in something they want or need to do. We would only want to help support someone to find another strategy if their sensory preference was harmful e.g. they were hurting themselves. Have a look at the questionnaires we have developed to help you think about your child’s sensory likes and dislikes. 

Information on each sensory system is available for 3 different age ranges;

  • 2-5 years
  • 5-12 years
  • 12-18 years

You do not need to complete all of the questionnaires. You can pick the ones you think are most relevant for your child. Add your child’s name and date of birth so that you can answer questions for that age group

Answer yes or no. Press the blue button for more information if you are not sure

Complete all the questions. At the end you can print or save the strategies which have been suggested for you to try.

Our eyes take in information from the world around us which then goes to the brain. The brain then decides what information it needs to pay attention to and what it can ignore. It is not about how well you see but about what your brain does with the information.

Some people do not need a lot of input before they feel they have had too much. They might avoid bright lights or get distracted looking at other things instead of doing their work. They might close or cover their eyes.

Some people need more input before it registers and they might not notice things in the environment or they might seek out things to look at like shiny, spinning toys or stare at things intensely.

Answer the following questions if you think your child processes visual information differently.

Listening to the world around us helps us make sense of where we are. Sensory processing is not about how well you hear but what your brain does with the information. Some people do not need a lot of input before they feel they have had too much. They might cover their ears if there is a loud noise or become upset. If they need a lot of input they might hum, sing or bang objects.

Answer the following questions if you think your child processes information they hear differently.

Our touch system picks up information about our environment from sensors in our skin. These give us information about differences in things we touch- is it hot/ cold? or rough/ smooth? If they don’t need a lot of input before they feel they have had too much they might not like being cuddled or hate getting hair brushed or washed. They might hate the feeling of certain clothes or become upset if someone brushes past them. We might not like standing in a line. If we have If people need a lot of input before it registers they might not notice if they have food on their face or hands or if they have hurt themselves.

Answer the following questions if you think your child processes touch differently.

Our senses of smell and taste are closely linked and they follow the same pathway through the brain. Some people do not need a lot of input before they’ve had too much. They might become upset by smells that no one else can smell. If we need more input before it registers we might seek out smells and smell objects or people. Processing smell differently can make us refuse to eat different food. Our mouths give us important information about whether food is crunchy, smooth or chewy or whether it is hot or cold. If you get overwhelmed easily you might eat bland food or find it difficult to eat different foods. You might gag when eating something new. If you need a lot of input before it registers you might choose to eat really spicy or sour foods. You might lick objects which are not food or put them in your mouth.

Answer the following questions if you think your child processes taste or smell differently.

Your sense of body awareness is also known as your PROPRIOCEPTIVE sense. The sensors are in the muscles and joints. They send messages to the brain to tell it where your body parts are in space and how much force or pressure your muscles are using. This sense gives you information about the position of body parts- e.g. you don’t need to look at your arms or legs to know where they are and know the right amount of force to use to lift objects of different weights. Think about the difference in force you would use to pick up a feather or a heavy bag. If you process proprioceptive information differently you might bump or crash into things, hold a pencil too tightly, be too rough when playing with friends or chew on objects like clothing or ends of pencils.

Answer the following questions if you think your child processes proprioceptive (body awareness) information differently.

Your sense of movement and balance is known as your VESTIBULAR sense. The sensors are in your inner ear and tell your brain what direction you are moving in and whether your head is up or down. It helps your body stay upright against gravity.

Answer the following questions if you think your child processes vestibular (movement and balance) information differently.

Sensory Boxes

Children require a varied 'sensory diet' or in other words to experience lots of different sensory sensation in order for their sensory systems to develop and mature.  That is why it is so important for them to have as many different play opportunities as possible, and not to spend long periods of time in front of a computer/game console or TV screen.  Rough and tumble, messy and explorative play are all important ways to give your child as wide and varied a sensory diet as possible.

Some children have a particular sensory system that needs extra input, and in such cases it can be helpful to pull together a collection of toys and materials that provide specific stimulus to that sensory system.  These resources are known as 'Sensory Boxes'.

These leaflets provide some suggestions for ideas to keep in your sensory boxes.  This is by no means an exhaustive list but provides you with some ideas to get started.  Once you start looking at the world around you through more 'sensory aware' eyes you will notice potential resources everywhere you go!

You can download the printable resource for labels to put on the top and side of your box in case you develop a collection of sensory boxes for your home, nursery or school.


Falkirk Council Sensory Booklets

Falkirk Council Children with Disabilities Team have published a number of booklets providing lots of useful information and ideas for supporting your child's sensory behaviours.

What Next?

Different strategies work for different people. It is important to work together with your child to try out different strategies. Please don’t expect big changes overnight. It can take several months for sensory strategies to be used effectively. Try to use the strategies you think work best for you and your child consistently for 3 months.

Top tips for using strategies consistently:

  • Think about what strategy you are going to try (do you need to buy something before you start? Do you already have something at home you could use? Do you need to make changes to your home e.g. put up a tent, move clutter to make quiet space).
  • Think about why you are using it- the strategy needs to have a purpose- It needs to help them participate more in an activity whether it’s being able to get hair cut, help make it easier to sit and do homework or help your child relax when they come in from school.
  • When you are going to use it- every morning? As soon as they come in from school? When you go for a walk?

Paediatric Occupational Therapy Teams within Greater Glasgow & Clyde (GG&C)

There are 4 sectors within GG&C for Paediatric Occupational Therapy:

• North West Sector which includes West Dunbartonshire and parts of East Dunbartonshire
 North East Sector which includes parts of East Dunbartonshire
 South Sector which includes East Renfrewshire 
 Inverclyde and Renfrewshire Sector

Please find below all OT addresses and telephone numbers for your specific area within GG&C:

  • Acorn Centre

Child Health Corridor

3rd Floor, Maternity Building

Vale of Leven Hospital

Main Street


G83 0UA

Telephone Number: 01389 817284


  • West Centre

60 Kinfauns Drive


G15 7TS

Telephone Number: 0141 207 7150

Aranthrue Centre

103 Paisley Road



Telephone Number: 0141 314 8989

Skylark Centre

L North

Inverclyde Royal Hospital


PA16 0XN

Telephone 01475 504630

  • Bridgeton Child Centre

201 Abercromby Street


G40 2DA

Telephone Number: 0141 531 6566


  • Woodside Health & Care Centre

891 Garscube Road


G20 7ER

Telephone Number: 0141 201 5685/5718

Southbank Child Centre

207 Old Rutherglen Road


G5 0RE

Telephone number: 0141 201 0938

School for Fidgets Video

Some people fidget to help them to concentrate. The film was developed by a child's Occupational Therapist from Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and explains more about this.